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Middle Child Syndrome

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I have a two-year-old that is the middle child of three boys. My husband and I are wondering what we can do to avoid that middle child syndrome. Right now he's learning to speak but he's (I think) very frustated that nobody can make out what he's saying. In return his frustrations are leading to aggressiveness towards the whole family. He hits things and yells a lot and seems to be isolating himself from the whole family more and more. If this is a middle child syndrome that everyone keeps telling us about then I'm going to lose my mind. Please help!

A: You are right on target when you refer to his frustration about not being able to be understood. At his stage of development, it's very frustrating when he can't express his thoughts and his feelings in words, especially when he is trying to establish an identity in your family.

I would suggest your spending as much time alone with him as you can, offering him physical affection, encouraging words, and understanding. Try to convey in language he will understand that you understand his frustrations. Give him as many choices and alternatives in his daily life as you can as he is craving to show his independence and power. Siblings Without Rivalry, by Faber and Mazlish and Loving Each One the Best, by Nancy Samalin, will be very helpful as you raise these sons.

Language will come easier to him soon and his frustration level due to this problem, will be greatly diminished. Yes, there are different issues that kids have based on birth order. But that does not mean that you are doomed to endure some version of what you are dealing with now for the rest of their lives. It's just more difficult at this stage because of their specific ages and stages. If you really feel you are losing your ability to have patience, I'd suggest some short term family therapy for support.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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